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Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs


NUMBER 047 
l
1st SESSION 
l
42nd PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, February 23, 2017

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

  (0845)  

[English]

     Welcome, everybody. I call the committee to order and recognize that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. We have an honoured guest, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), the committee will begin its study of supplementary estimates (C) 2016-17, votes 1c and 10c under Indian Affairs and Northern Development, referred to the committee on February 14, 2017. The department has the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Hélène Laurendeau, and Paul Thoppil.
    Welcome.
    The witnesses will be given up to 10 minutes to make an opening statement, and then we'll proceed as we normally do to questions and answers. The Minister is only available for the first hour and then we'll suspend the meeting and have a chance to work with the departmental officials after that.
    I'll open it up to the Minister for 10 minutes.
    Meegwetch, Madam Chair.
    I'm glad to be here with you to today on the traditional Algonquin territory to present our departmental supplementary estimates (C) for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

[Translation]

    I am the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. I am joined by Hélène Laurendeau, deputy minister, and Paul Thoppil, chief financial officer.

[English]

    We also welcome you, Madam Chair, as the new chair and we look forward to working with you and all of the committee members on tackling the critical issues facing indigenous people and northerners. We also want to acknowledge the important work of this committee over the past several months on difficult and complex issues, such as the ongoing suicide crisis in indigenous communities. I just want to say that I'm very happy to hear that you've decided to study the default prevention and management program. We look forward to reading the results of your work and to be able to put in important changes.
    So, we welcome the scrutiny of these estimates. As you know, the supplementary estimates (C) exercise is an important one, as it's the final appropriation act for this fiscal year and, with your assent, the work that was started this year in budget 2016 can continue in key areas.

[Translation]

    The tabling of the Supplementary Estimates (C) allows for more than an examination and approval of departmental disbursements. It permits us to look back at the progress we've made since the tabling of the Main Estimates and Supplementary Estimates (A) and (B).

[English]

    Budget 2016, as you all know, made an unprecedented investment of $8.4 billion over five years for indigenous peoples. These funds are critical to reconciliation and to advancing the government's objective to renew the relationship with indigenous people by making real progress on the issues that matter in daily life, issues such as child welfare, housing, water, education, culture, and food security.

[Translation]

    I am proud to inform this committee that the funding is flowing into the communities. As of February 15, 2017, over 90% of this year's money had already been allocated to indigenous communities in the form of funding agreements.

[English]

    This year, alone, our targeted investments have resulted in 201 water and wastewater projects, 965 housing projects, 125 education infrastructure projects and 167 culture and recreation projects.

[Translation]

    These estimates support requests totalling $92 million, bringing the total appropriations for the department to approximately $9.5 billion for this fiscal year. This is an increase compared to last year's total appropriations, which were $8.9 billion.

  (0850)  

[English]

     Traditionally, supplementary estimates (C) tackle largely technical matters as the fiscal year comes to a close.
    Included in these estimates is $56 million to support emergency management operations on-reserve. There is also $22 million in funding for Operation Return Home: Manitoba Interlake flood remediation and settlement. Operation Return Home will continue to help repair, rebuild, and re-establish four Manitoba first nations that were impacted by the severe flooding in 2011.

[Translation]

    Our government believes that negotiation, rather than litigation, is the best way to settle disputes and right historical wrongs.

[English]

    I was proud, a few weeks ago, to announce that I have the mandate now to negotiate a resolution to the sixties scoop, a dark and tragic period in our history. I am also proud that our government successfully settled the Anderson class action and that we have appointed a special representative to engage in discussions towards a resolution of the Gottfriedson class action.
    These estimates contain more than $3 million in funding for research in the indigenous childhood claims litigation. I cannot stress enough that settling these types of claims not only is the right thing to do, but also continues to advance our reconciliation efforts.

[Translation]

    Funding of $1.8 million is going to the Arctic regional environmental studies to inform decision-making on offshore oil and gas activities that could affect three regions of the Canadian Arctic.

[English]

    This funding supports our government's commitment to integrating indigenous traditional knowledge into the assessments of potential impacts.
    As you know, last December the Prime Minister announced that Arctic Canadian waters were declared indefinitely off limits to offshore Arctic oil and gas licensing, with a science-based review to happen in five years. Arctic regional environmental studies will play an important role in that five-year review. These studies will draw on both scientific and indigenous knowledge to support decision-making around possible future resource development and other commercial activities in these regions.

[Translation]

    I value your opinions, advice, and assistance as we continue to implement an agenda that advances reconciliation.

[English]

    As Gord Downie reminded us Canadians during his Secret Path performances, we have 150 years behind us that we need to learn from and we've got 150 years ahead and we'd better just get to work.
    I am looking forward to the next steps of this work together.
    My colleagues will now join me in answering your questions about these estimates.
    On behalf of all of us, thank you, meegwetch, for the invitation to be with you today.
    Thank you very much.
    We start off the first round of questioning with MP Massé.

[Translation]

    Hello, minister and deputy minister. Thank you for being here today to answer our questions about the Supplementary Estimates (C).
    I will begin with a more general question.
    Budget 2016 allocated $8.4 billion over five years. For 2016-2017, the forecast expenditures were $1.5 billion.
    Can you give us an idea of the expenditures that have been made from that $1.5 billion? What expenditures have been made from that amount?

[English]

    Almost all of the money goes into the grants and contributions. A very small percentage, about 7%, goes to administration in our department. I think that in most accounting evaluations, up to 15% is viewed to be normal. Most of our money is in what's called vote 10, which is the absolute that has to go to indigenous communities or has to be in a transfer in that way. Vote 1 is the part that is for the department to run these programs.
    As you know, we are trying desperately to build indigenous governments and institutions, and our overall goal is to get out of the business of grants and contributions in programming dollars and to be able to do this differently in building indigenous governments, self-determination, as well as indigenous-led institutions.

  (0855)  

[Translation]

    Generally speaking, what obstacles do you face in transferring these funds to the communities, band councils, and so forth?

[English]

     I think the most difficult problem we have right now is the capacity in certain communities to use the money and to apply early. It seems that communities with the most difficulties don't have the capacity to get the proposals in on time.
     In housing, we did it in three tranches such that we could work with the communities that needed it a lot, for a third entry point on housing. But as we go forward, these are the kinds of things we hope to be able to change. What was before the year-on-year funding meant, if you can say, that the communities that weren't as needy were the best at getting their proposals in, so other communities continued to fall behind. We're trying to make sure that we are building capacity and that we can find different timing to do this long-term planning.
    Mr. Massé, you say our ability to encourage comprehensive community plans seems to be the way. In British Columbia, it's going very well. There's recently been another. In Manitoba, they've begun a conference to build that capacity. Once you have a comprehensive community plan, where it's not just chief and council, but also the principal, the nurse, the police chief, the elders, and the youth all planning for long term.... Now that we have money over a five-year period that can do this, we can actually help them really develop their infrastructure needs in a really credible and cohesive way. We are also learning that it also deals with child welfare. It also deals with missing and murdered indigenous people. When communities come together to develop this plan, then we can back them up. Their knowing that this year they will get this much and next year they will get the next is going to help us lift, in a way that I think all Canadians want us to, some of these communities that have been struggling.

[Translation]

    As you said earlier, you are asking for $56 million to be allocated in the supplementary estimates to “reimburse first nations and emergency management service providers for on-reserve response and recovery activities”.
    Can you tell us which emergency management activities the $56 million will be used for?

[English]

    As you know, these severe weather events seem to be way more common, and it really is.... It means that first nations have to put their own money out. We try to help them as much as we can, as with the $7.4 million for the wildfires in Alberta, and $19.2 million for the Red Cross for evacuation due to the flooding in Manitoba and the tornado and wildfire events in Alberta. There are the long-term evacuation costs in Kashechewan, the flood recovery costs. Then there was the major Thanksgiving storm in Atlantic Canada. We have A-based funding that is always there, but we actually have to send in.... In the supplementary estimates, we have to ask for a little bit more, depending on how many events there were.

[Translation]

    Thank you.
    Madam Chair, do I have any time left?

[English]

    You have about a minute and a half.

[Translation]

    Okay.
    I have one final question then.

[English]

    No, 30 seconds. Make it short. I was giving you 10 minutes.

  (0900)  

[Translation]

    The main estimates allocate $4 million for prevention.
    Will measures be taken to improve prevention strategies in order to help communities better deal with emergencies?

[English]

    Oui. I think it is a partnership that is about working with first nations on mitigation and on prevention by having things in better shape to deal with preventing these emergencies. The first nations identify their priority from what they know has happened in the past and what they want to prevent in the future, and then we work with them on their prevention programs.
    Thank you.
    MP McLeod.
    Thank you, Minister, for joining us today.
    I want to start with a bit of a comment. The ability and responsibility that parliamentarians have to scrutinize the spending of government is one of the most important tasks we have. It's the ability to look at what the plans are through the budget process, and it's the ability through main estimates and a variety of accountability mechanisms to actually see how the government is spending the dollars that people work so hard for.
    Of course, you'll notice that we have a really important structure whereby we do that, and I want to note that first nations communities, unfortunately, do not have that same opportunity, with the lack of the enforcement of transparency via the first nations transparency act. They do not, and it's getting worse for a number of communities to get that basic information so they can look at it and hold their governments to account for how they spend the money. Certainly, an example is the lunch program money that went missing. I think that if communities had detailed information, they would perhaps recognize that they weren't getting that lunch program.
     I wanted to put that on the record, because I continue to be very concerned that there is not an opportunity for communities to have the same privileges that we do in holding their governments to account.
    Cathy, I think it's very important for me to put on the record that over 90% of communities do report in this way—
    It's less now. It's less now.
    —and that the ones who are having trouble reporting are the ones with capacity issues, so the fact that we now have—
    Madam Chair, I—
    —more and more communities—
    Sorry.
    With respect, I have some questions, but I wanted to make that comment. I do have some questions—
    But you also need to know that—
    Sorry—
    —the AFN is working very closely with us on mutual accountability, because people also need to know what we are doing, and so we—
    I'm sorry. You'll have an opportunity to answer when Cathy poses her question.
    Thank you.
    I want to get into the nuts and bolts of the estimates because, of course, that's what we're here for.
    As we know, for communities, small amounts of money can be very important. The first thing I'm going to ask you about is the $600,000 transfer from INAC to Public Safety “to support activities related to” an international reduction strategy. That looks like a conference in Montreal from May 7 to May 9.
     That $600,000 is a lot of money. It could build perhaps three homes. It could fund the Wapekeka program for suicide prevention.
     It sounds like it's for a bit of a gabfest in Montreal. I would like you to justify to the people of Wapekeka and the people of Attawapiskat why this particular conference is a better use of dollars than perhaps funding their suicide prevention program.
    Firstly, those conferences are attended by the people from communities who need to learn and to be able to bring their standards up, so this is a way that they choose. We are supporting the people who apply to go to those conferences so they can keep their communities well. Paul can give you the details.
    This is an international strategy, a UN one.
     As we've just noted and discussed, in supplementary estimates (C) we are requesting $56 million for extra costs related to the impacts of climate change on communities.
    This is about—
    This conference—

  (0905)  

    —disaster reduction and the UN.
    Disaster reduction is related to best practices around the world for events such as disasters that are related to things like climate change. There are lessons learned from an international context that we hope indigenous peoples in this country will benefit from. We therefore believe that it's of benefit for their communities in how they deal with climate change, which, unfortunately, will have disaster elements associated with the communities. The $660,000 is a benefit for their further mitigation issues, their ideas, and best practices that can be shared across the world.
     Okay. Thank you. I hope for the people of Wapekeka and Attawapiskat that makes sense to them, because of course every time you spend a dollar, there are opportunity costs in regard to other urgent and essential needs.
    Next, there is a $605,400 transfer from Health Canada for regional workshops—different from the UN conference. Can you give me the details? Again, I think we need to put that $600,000 for some regional workshops in the context of what might instead be funding for 20 orthodontic cases that are currently getting turned down for approval. Are these more than gabfests? Will they lead to action? Are they more important than some of the urgent needs in communities right now?
    There's about a minute and a half for a response.
    I think it's the same concept wherein, again, money is provided by Health Canada through its first nations and Inuit health branch for benefits and non-insured benefits. There is also money booked to raise best practices and to be able to find out what's happening on the ground, particularly with things like Jordan's principle. We've needed to put people out there. That's why we have 3,200 more kids getting the kind of care they need, since July 1, because of a better understanding of how that will be.
    That's an example of the kind of information that needs to get out to communities via workshops and such things, so that more kids can be looked after.
    I guess perhaps—
    You have 30 seconds.
    I'll close with a comment, then.
    Sometimes, when you come from health care backgrounds, doing the practical things on the ground are really important. I think when we're looking at any of these workshops or UN panels, they are relevant, absolutely, but we also need to look at them in conjunction with making a real difference to the people who are suffering in communities.
    Thank you.
    Cathy, with due respect, continuing education is part of our staying certified as doctors and nurses.
    We're moving on—
    Having people not up to date is really unacceptable for the people who live in those communities.
    Thank you.
    I encourage the respondents, our guests, to respond to the questions when asked.
    MP Romeo Saganash.
    Thank you to the minister for her presence today.
    I want to start with the water advisories in the communities, because I think it was a huge undertaking on the part of your government to eliminate those within five years. It's still a major problem. It's a major undertaking, because it involves a lot of infrastructure for the communities. It involves a lot of resources for the support of water systems in communities—for maintenance, sampling of the water quality, inspections, and so on and so forth.
    We're a year and a half into your mandate. There are three and a half years left to complete that commitment. Is there a plan?
    There is a plan. We're very proud of the plan. Thank you for the question.
    As you know, we started with a huge deficit and lots of communities in terrible shape. We have worked with all of the communities with long-term water advisories, but also the communities with high-risk systems that need to be moved to medium- and low-risk systems. We are pleased that we've lifted the boil water advisories in 18.
    I think as you know, of the 71 that are left, maybe 10 are at Slate Falls and seven in another community. In actually getting water systems into those communities that have a number of pumphouses and a number of boil water advisories, we will, I think, make significant progress.
    As you know, it's a three-phased deal. We have to do the predesign, the design, and the implementation. As you pointed out, that takes time, but we do believe we'll be able to do this in the five years, along with our budgeting for the maintenance and the training. As we heard on the news last night, chiefs are worried that they train up an operator and then he gets poached to the local town. We have to be able to make sure that we are building systems that can be self-sustaining within communities and that we also have those proud people as the water managers in their communities wanting to stay and look after their communities.

  (0910)  

    We did perhaps eliminate 18, but unfortunately some 12 others have been added to the list.
    I would like to see the plan because I think it's an important piece.
    We will be able to release the plan to you.
    Of the 12 new ones, three are from the 18, meaning that some of them just timed out at 365 days, so they are among the winners. But there's no question that we have to get work on the 71.
    My next question is on the childhood claims litigation. There's a supplementary request for an allocation of $3.1 million. I want some clarification with respect to that. Are there litigation activities involved?
    When I asked you the question in the House, you were pretty clear that you would not appeal the decision on the sixties scoop, but later on, after you went out of the House, you weren't as clear as you were in the House, unfortunately.
    We hear that there may be the possibility of a request for technical clarifications by your government, which is very clearly a procedural delay, in my view.
    If my calculation is right, $3.1 million for the remainder of the fiscal year is about $100,000 a day. What is this money for?
    This money is for the research to be able to estimate this. There are many childhood litigation claims. We really need to do the research on not only the kinds of claims and the unique nature of some of them, but also on the size of the class. Without having the facts, we won't be able to get going on the negotiations that we hope will be able to eliminate these.
    As you know, the research is also necessary because language and culture are so important for the claimants in this. It's not just about money. It is about having lost their language and culture, and we need to know more about how that could be remedied, not only for the children that come after, but also for the families.
    Are you confirming that your government will not be seeking a technical clarification?
    Yes or no?
    We always have to.... I can assure you that I....
    We do not want to be in court. We want to be dealing with claimants and negotiating their way out.
    Is that a yes or a no?
    Pardon?
    Is that a yes or a no?
    Will you be seeking that technical clarification in this case?
    The ruling is pretty clear that you're responsible.
    Yes, and we have no doubt that we're responsible, and that harm was done.
    Whether it happened in Ontario, Saskatchewan, or Alberta, it's the same thing.
    Everywhere, it's the same. That's what we feel very strongly about. We know that harm was done coast to coast to coast, and we want to negotiate these claims so that there is....
    The wrongs will never be righted, but we are going to try to do everything we can, particularly for those who want an apology, for those who want real progress on language and culture and getting their language and culture back. We're serious about that.
    That's the reason we were able to settle the Anderson class action. Even though Newfoundland wasn't in Canada at the time, we decided that we wanted to settle it, and we wanted those claimants to be able to understand that this government was prepared to do that.
    Who makes the decision whether or not to seek clarification in courts? Is it your department, or the Department of Justice?
    It's a joint thing, and with cabinet.

  (0915)  

    Thank you.
    We're moving on to questions from MP Gary Anandasangaree.
    I'm going to yield my time to Mr. McLeod. We're switching spots.
    To MP McLeod?
     It's the other MP McLeod.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Thank you, Minister, for your presentation to us today.
    First off, I want to say that I'm quite pleased with the amount of progress we have made in getting the aboriginal governments back to the negotiating tables in the Northwest Territories. I think we are moving towards self-governance in the future, and having 10 sets of discussions all going at the same time is really refreshing to see. Also the idea of bringing in four MSRs to review some of the more challenging negotiations is something that I think is going to bring some good results.
    I had an opportunity to meet with Mary Simon the other day on the studies she is doing, and we had a very good discussion.
    I'm looking at the supplementary estimates document. There is one area in which we have money, but I want to flag something. I've said this before, so it's probably not going to be new to you. We are studying suicides across Canada, mostly in our smaller indigenous communities. In the north it is a huge issue, as you know. On average, doing my own math and using Statistics Canada information, we're estimating that in the three territories, we have a suicide every eight to ten days. Since we started our suicide study a little over a year ago, we have had over 50 in the north.
    When we look at the breakout of the money, the $8.4 billion that was announced for aboriginal people, we don't qualify for any of those dollars. There is no real carve-out for us under that. The post-secondary education money that's been announced, we don't qualify for. The money Jane Philpott has announced through Health, for younger children, we don't qualify for. Jordan's principle doesn't apply to us. As aboriginal governments, we have never received housing money except this time around for the Inuvialuit, which was good. Hopefully that trend is going to continue.
    We talk about culture and recreation centres. Our aboriginal centres don't qualify for those, because we don't have reserves, so almost everything you announce doesn't apply to us. We have communities that are full of aboriginal people, but they are public communities.
    I'm hoping we are going to try to find a way through that so that it is fair. Our fears are being confirmed through the Auditor General. He's reviewed our community and said we're not meeting all the infrastructure needs, that we are really falling below what needs to be funded. The aboriginal government claims that have been settled, the Auditor General has reviewed and said we're not meeting our obligations, so we have a lot of work to do.
    As I look at the supplementary estimates document we have in front of us, I see that there is going to be some work done on an Arctic regional environmental study, which I am really happy to see move forward finally. However, the breakout under vote 1 and vote 10 really doesn't seem to be fair. As you stated, vote 1, which is over $900,000, is for the department. Over 50% of the money is going to go to the government, to the department. Then there is $850,000 in vote 10.
    Could you tell me what the department is going to do with the $900,000? Why does it need more than half of it? Are they going to do the bulk of the study? Is the $850,000 going to be available for the aboriginal governments or territorial governments? It's not clear to me.
    You're referring, Mr. McLeod, just to the regional environmental studies?
    I mean the Arctic regional environmental studies.
    Okay. Maybe I'll get Paul to explain how that breaks down.
    In answer to your question, Mr. McLeod, the money is going to be used to rent venues for the workshops and to pay for travel for individuals, for the community members, to come to the workshops. So it's not money for the bureaucracy in vote 1. It's actually—

  (0920)  

    We're not taking wages out of that, are we?
    No. It all benefits the communities. Vote 10 is to help them to prepare before coming to the workshops, so all of that money is to the benefit of northerners.
    I guess the biggest question I'm trying to get at here is this. All of this will be spent in the north? Over 50% of it is not going to be spent in Ottawa?
    A voice: That's correct.
    Mr. Michael McLeod: I have another question on another budget line time regarding the emergency management service providers. Over half of what you're presenting here to be spent will be for this budget line—“funding to reimburse First Nations and emergency management service providers”. I'm wondering if that also applies in the north.
    We only talked about the big ones like Fort Mac and whatever, so—
    This is over 50% of your budget that you're presenting here.
    —we can look it up. It's about replenishing money that was spent on an emergency.
    If you want to let me know about any emergency in the Northwest Territories, we can get you the funds for that specifically.
    Are you saying we could qualify for the same kind of monies? We have tons of emergencies.
     That emergency management money is based on events, and they—
    On reserve or off reserve?
    On reserve primarily, but if there are events that we need to contribute to, we do and we fund. It's a big ticket item because we often have to do it after the fact. We have some base funding, but when the events occur we fund them, and we replenish based on the event.
    If there are events in the north—
    So this is already spent?
    Yes, by and large it is already spent.
    And it's just replenishing.
    Mike, I think one of the other things to say is that as we move to self-government in the Northwest Territories, a lot of your concerns will be dealt with as we are dealing with the new indigenous governments, this on and off reserve, and all of the things around housing
    With regard to housing, as you know, in the last budget, you as northerners did a great job with the infrastructure minister and the finance minister, explaining that housing in the north is different and that these technical things of on and off reserve don't apply in the north. The money we were able to give to the Inuvialuit or the other Inuit organizations has been ring-fenced for that because of the terrific input provided by northern MPs.
    Thank you.
    Is that it?
    That's it.
    We're moving on to the second round, which is five minutes, and that's going to MP Yurdiga.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
     Minister, thank you for appearing before committee today. As always, we appreciate your coming to our committee.
    The parliamentary budget office just released a report less than an hour ago. That report says your ministry has frozen $100 million in funding.
    Minister, I have sat on this committee and heard the desperation from indigenous people at every committee meeting. I have heard your government make countless promises. Why is this money not being spent when there is clearly a desperate need for it?
    I haven't read the report. I know that pretty well the only money that lapses in our department is money that's set aside to settle claims or in lawsuits, and it gets rolled into the following year. We aren't allowed to spend on anything else, but we do roll it forward so that claim money is sitting there for when the claim is settled.
    I don't know that report, but I know there were previous reports that I was very happy to clarify, because this isn't money that could be spent on something else.
    Do you have an update?
    Are we referring to frozen allotments?
    Yes.
    As the minister quite rightly stated, monies are earmarked for defined purposes. When you have a frozen allotment, that's the basis for ensuring that money is re-profiled into future purposes for when those obligations need to be paid.

  (0925)  

    Well—
    That's for a number of purposes, such as contaminated sites and out-of court residential schools settlement payments. Those are a couple of examples.
    For example, the residential school money has to sit there until these last claims are settled. You can't spend it on infrastructure or spend it on anything else. It has to be sitting there so the money is there when the claim is settled.
    It really doesn't make sense to me. The money was budgeted for specific allocations and now is being frozen.
    I want to know why it was frozen. You made an explanation—this program, and that program. These are excuses, but I want to know why.
    It's because it is for a specific purpose.
    You try to anticipate how many claims will be settled in a given year. Then, if they are not settled, that frozen money gets moved into the next year for when the claim is settled. It has to be sitting there for the claimant because that was what the money was allocated for. It can't be used for anything else.
     If I may, it's the technical means for managing the fiscal framework, moving money from one year to another, in terms of frozen allotments.
    Okay.
    I notice there is no movement on nutrition north in the supplementary estimates. I realize that your consultation process just finished on February 8, but I would like to know when we can expect these major changes to come into play. Can we expect anything in the next budget, or will it be in the supplementary estimates next year?
    The consultations were really interesting, in terms of the kinds of things people were talking about in a broken program. As you know, people just feel that they used to be able to feed their families and now they can't.
    With the parliamentary secretary, Yvonne Jones, we are now looking at how we respond to the individual needs, which are very different in northern Manitoba from what they are in Goose Bay or in Iqaluit. How do we deal with the reality of the cost of bringing in healthy, nutritious food? Also, though, community after community wants harvesters and fishermen to be able to feed their families in a traditional way. How do we get back to being able to have the hunters and fishermen able to have the boats and motors and snow machines and ammunition, the kinds of things that allow them to feed their families in a nutritional way? This is what we heard from coast to coast to coast.
    It will be with northerners that we will design the next program. We can't do that ourselves. It will have to be done in full collaboration with northerners.
    Thank you.
    The questioning now moves to MP Anandasangaree.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Madam Minister and colleagues, thank you for joining us.
    With respect to the emergency fund and the replenishment of your money, can you give us a sense of the dollars we spend on an emergency that takes place in an indigenous community versus a non-indigenous community? It may be out of your department's ambit, but can you give us a sense of the dollars the federal government spends on both, and whether there's a disparity between that spending?
    I'd love to get back to you on that and how it works.
    From talking to the communities during the Fort Mac fire, I am very proud that our department in the regional office there was able to forward money to the communities to be able to help them, particularly with some of their people who worked in Fort Mac or Edmonton and their transportation needs.
    Quite often our department is able to front-end load our community with the money right away for an emergency. We then have to figure out how we replenish or get that money back.
    I guess my question really was about whether there's a disparity between the dollars we spend.
    There is a fully integrated security management system that starts from the federal and provincial levels—and the municipal level if you're governed by a provincial government. The portion that INAC takes is to do the same thing and be plugged in through that cascading. It stems from the same type of emergency management system, so there is parity. More often than not, with the agreements that we have with the provinces, the provinces will front-load the bill and then we will replenish later. In the specifics of these, we work directly with providers. We did it particularly for Fort Mac and a few others in conjunction with the activity done on the ground, either by a municipality or province under the federal government.
    The quick answer to your question is that we operate with parity and provide the same level of services.

  (0930)  

    If you could just confirm that at a later date, that would be good. I am very curious to know if there is a disparity.
    Certainly when you're on the ground during these emergencies, it is the province that is quite often taking the lead. Again, the on-reserve, off-reserve distinction disappears at the time. It is about doing what needs to be done.
    But we will find out what that looks like.
    We'll send you a description of that.
     You have two minutes.
    Thank you.
    With respect to childhood claims litigation, if I understand this correctly, this is very specific to the sixties scoop and the liability that's likely to come about because of the Ontario court decision.
    I'm a little curious as to why this kind of work would not have been done during the litigation process itself. I would have thought that when the government entered into litigation there would be some analysis of what that liability would be rather than fighting it for 10 years. If this is one of these instances in which we are kind of doing the work now, it seems to me an almost futile exercise to go to court and fight without really knowing what the liability is from the outset.
    I must admit, Gary, that I was surprised at how secretive a lot of these claims are in terms of our having no idea how many people would be in a class, or those kinds of things. When they're in pure litigation, that isn't clear, but as we get to negotiation and we are prepared to go to the table, then this research needs to be done, but it also needs to be done with regard to what the claimants are actually asking for. Particularly in court, people can only be asking for money or land or whatever. At the negotiating table, it is about the structure of an apology. It is about language and culture. It is about how you would build back what was lost in satisfying what the claimants are asking for.
    Please keep it very short. You have 20 seconds.
    With respect to any other similar pending litigation, would it not be prudent for us to maybe look at taking a different approach to this as opposed to fighting it out and then saying that we're going to go to the negotiating table?
    You're absolutely right. I don't want to be fighting anything out. I want to get to the table on as many claims as we can. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes two to get out of court. We would love to be able to get a lot of litigation, but on these childhood claims, we are really doing everything we can to get these out of court and to the table.
    Thank you, Minister.
    We now move to MP Arnold Viersen.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Thank you, Minister, for being here today.
    I think I'll just continue right on in the same vein there. The whole legal system in Canada is set up such that if you aren't going to appeal a decision, you therefore accept the decision and have to abide by the ruling.
    We had Cindy Blackstock here just last week telling us that you weren't appealing tribunal decisions but that you didn't seem to be implementing their decisions either. This seems to be an ongoing trend in the same vein as the transparency act's being the law of the land while you are just not enforcing it. I guess I have a significant struggle with that since the basic rule of democracy is the rule of law. If we voted in the House of Commons to suspend the rule of law in this country, I don't think that would be a legitimate vote, because the rule of law is a basic, fundamental part of democracy. So I'm struggling with that. It seems to be an ongoing trend of yours. That's just probably more of a comment.
    Cindy Blackstock was here the other day asking about Jordan's principle, and I see in the supplementary estimates here that we have $1 million dollars for Jordan's principle. I know that her organization was asking for $155 million for Jordan's principle, and you made an announcement of about $382 million. Can you just explain to me the $1 million that we see in the supplementary estimates and how that works? There might be a good explanation for it, but I'm just not sure how.... We have several different numbers running around. Last month, the number was $5 million. Can you just try to line that up for me?

  (0935)  

     There are two parts to the tribunal decision. One is the child welfare system and the other is Jordan's principle. As you know, Minister Philpott manages Jordan's principle in terms of the health care needs.
    We get a small amount of that to deal with housing and assisted living, the kinds of things that would be more for quality of life as opposed to actual health care. As you know, this year we made available the money for Jordan's principle in the $382 million over three years; $88 million was made available this year. Out of that, we have identified 3,200 kids who now will get care who weren't getting it before the broadening of that definition.
    It is about us identifying the children and making sure they get the care they need. That's where the ramping up takes place, because that definition was only changed July 1. It used to be that it had to be multiple disabilities, multiple agencies. Now, any child with a disability will no longer have this sort of fight between provinces and federal government as to who pays. We have put that money in place.
    The $155 million that Dr. Blackstock talked about is for the combination of both Jordan's principle and the child welfare. We're very pleased that this year we've made available $197.7 million, and that there will be, as of the next fiscal year, $246.6 million available for the combination of the changes to the child welfare program as well as Jordan's principle.
    We also know that we have to change the system, because too much money is still going to lawyers to apprehend children. We want more money into communities so that these kids don't end up with the system at all.
    Staying out of court is a laudable goal, but how do you square that with the fundamental principle of the rule of law in Canada?
    The tribunal is not a court of law, and it didn't put any numbers on it. They have agreed that they know we're serious about making these changes. We are doing that in an intentional and very meaningful way.
    One of the things that was interesting that's in the supplementary estimates—
    Thank you, Minister.
    Moving on to MP Fisher.
    Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I'm happy to fill in.
    Thank you, Minister, to you and your team for being here.
    Minister, you know I have the pleasure of representing the beautiful riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour in Nova Scotia. I know you know the region and the riding specifically. I thank you for your visits in the past. I look forward to hosting you again.
    If it's okay to stay along a parochial line, I am wondering if you could tell me a little more about how the estimates that you've presented today to this committee will impact communities in Atlantic Canada. I know that the needs vary greatly from region to region in this huge country, but can you specifically tell me a bit more about your plans for Atlantic Canada in particular?
    Mr. Fisher, I think you know that water systems have been a big problem in Atlantic Canada. Hopefully, we will be able to look at that for Potlotek First Nation and the one that was very noticeable in the news.
    Let me just see. I have a handy-dandy sheet on Atlantic Canada. There are 23 projects and 16 communities being funded for water and waste water; 72 projects and $11.5 million for housing; education facilities, $7.7 million; culture and recreation, $3.9 million; energy, sustainability, and connectivity, $1.1 million; fundamental community infrastructure, $6.7 million.
    I'd be happy to give you that. Also, because of Labrador, there's $4 million for Inuit housing. We'll break it down for you.
    That's what we're hoping to do. What we're hoping to do for everybody here very shortly is to be able to release the water and wastewater projects that are happening coast to coast to coast.

  (0940)  

     Thank you, Minister.
    I would be pleased, if the chair would permit that to be distributed to the committee, or to me specifically—
    Yes.
    —if no one else would like to have it.
    Do I have any time left?
    You have three minutes.
    I noticed that Mr. McLeod seemed like he was just ramping up, so I'd be pleased to provide him with my remaining three minutes.
    MP Michael McLeod.
    Thank you.
    I have a couple of questions that I wasn't able to ask last time.
    Regarding the money for specific land claims and self-government agreements, I know in the Northwest Territories we have some governments that are quite anxious to move forward. Some of them have self-government claims from almost eight or nine years ago, and with the previous government, they just got stalled, nothing moved forward, and it was a legal battle for years and years.
    I was quite pleased that you chose to intervene and try to untangle the legal mess that we're in and commit to a collaborative approach to try to resolve it, and I think we're moving forward. We're not moving forward fast enough for any of us, I think, but I'm just wondering if some of the money that was committed here in this request is for the Northwest Territories and some of those government that are working to—
    You have time for a short answer, about one minute.
    Go ahead.
    There are two amounts for the north, one for the indigenous languages for the Yukon self-governing nations, which you'll see in supplementary estimates (C), and then there is about $6 million that's moving from contributions to grants for the Nunavut land claims settlement. There's about $7 million that you're seeing through the supplementary estimates (C).
    But the rest is in the regular budget, Mike, not in the supplementary estimates (C).
    Yes, but I was asking about this one. Okay.
    You still have about 50 seconds.
    My next question is regarding languages, and maybe you answered it. There's $1.6 million for French and indigenous languages in the north. Can you break that out for me? What is going for French and what is going for indigenous languages?
    It's all indigenous.
    Ours is indigenous.
    Ours is all indigenous, and the French you'll see in Canadian Heritage's supplementaries.
    Well, it says French on it.
    Right. It's a horizontal label for across-government ministries, but the amount allocated for our ministry is just the indigenous languages portion.
    Is that for all three territories?
    It's mainly in the Yukon.
    It's in the Yukon. It's Yukon first nations.
    What are we doing wrong over here, that we're not...?
    Yes. We'll find out what's been—
    Can you provide me the breakdown of the whole investment in languages?
    Yes, we'll find out. Also, as you know, as we began out of budget 2016, language and culture becomes part of schools and all of those things. We will be building language and culture into early childhood programs and into other areas, but we'll find out what's happening in the Northwest Territories for sure, Mike.
    Thank you.
    We're going to wrap up the questioning with MP Romeo Saganash. You have three minutes.
    Three minutes, okay. That allows me to clarify one thing.
    There is a lot of information stemming from the cross-examination of the federal officials on the motions of non-compliance. As we know, $382 million was announced over three years for Jordan's principle. As of January 17, 2016, over $5 million was spent, and an additional $6 million approved. Can you confirm for me that all of the funds that are not used are sent back to consolidated revenue?

  (0945)  

    It will be re-profiled. This is Jordan's principle money, and it needs to be spent on Jordan's principle, and it will be spent on Jordan's principle. Because there's only—
    But it's not. If not, what happens? Is it sent back to revenue?
    It goes into next year's money for Jordan's principle. As we identify more and more children—
    That's not what your officials said in court under oath. We found that in the cross-examination of your officials. They confirmed that all funds that are unused by the end of the fiscal year will be removed from the fund and transferred to Canada's consolidated revenue fund.
    Well....
    That is technically correct if it's not re-profiled.
    Then it's Health Canada.
    That is correct. But if it's re-profiled, then it's moved into future years. There's a process of re-profiling, which involves working with the central agencies, the Department of Finance and the Treasury Board, to move that forward. Technically, the answer is correct, that if it's not re-profiled, it goes back to the CRF, but it is being re-profiled.
     So that $382 million over three years is $382 million over three years dedicated to Jordan's principle.
    You have about 40 seconds.
    The other thing we've learned in this case is that Canada has not taken any further action to implement the order that refers to the need to “engage” with first nations—a word that use a lot in your speaking notes. The officials also confirm that Canada has no formal definition of “engagement”. If that is the case, I wouldn't want to engage with you, Madam.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    To be engaged, yes, it's a....
    What does it mean to you? That's the question.
    Engagement is a recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. It means, how do we move in co-creating policies, co-creating a budget? How do we move on this?
    One of the things we did, as I was just mentioning, was in the child welfare reforms. We made available $100,000 for each of the child welfare agencies to (a) determine their needs, at $25,000 each, and (b) with $75,000 each, to build a language and culture program for their clients. This is a kind of engagement in which you actually say there's this money on offer, so tell us what you need so we can build a program based on your needs going forward.
    Thank you.
    Thank you so much.
    We've gone over the time. I want to thank the minister for taking the time to come to committee.
     If you wish to remain, we could probably find the time to keep you.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The Chair: You have an open invitation to come back to committee. Thank you very much.
    We're going to suspend for five minutes, and then we will be back to question the department.

  (0945)  


  (0950)  

    We'll call the committee back into session.
    We have until until about 10:40 for this round. We'll take care of the votes after that and be done at 10:45.
    We have been joined by additional staff from the department: Ms. Isaak and Mr. Smith.
     Welcome.
    We're going to start the questioning with a seven-minute round by MP Michael McLeod.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I was expecting a bit of a presentation, but I guess we're going to go directly into the questions.
    I beg your pardon. That's true.
     There is an opportunity to do a 10-minute presentation, if you wish.
    Madam Chair, with your permission, maybe we could walk you through the deck we have provided.
     That was completely my mistake. I'm sorry. Please go ahead with the deck that you have.
    Okay. I will ask Mr. Thoppil to do that for us. Thank you.
    This is not cutting into my time, is it?
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    We were on such a good round with the questions.
    Go ahead.
    Thank you, Madame Chair.
    What the department has tried to do to provide more clarity with regard to the supplementary estimates is to prepare this PowerPoint presentation to address potential anticipated questions.
    What we have in front of us, moving to page 2, is essentially how much we have been given by Parliament to date in terms of authorities, and then what the supplementary estimates provide us with. So what you will see on page 2 is essentially that, net of transfers and other adjustments. We are seeking parliamentary authority for an additional $92 million, to take us to the $9.5 billion amount.
    Page 3 essentially breaks down, in a summary way, the amounts that we are requesting by key initiative, and it also tries to provide you with how that relates by vote. As the minister noted in her remarks, vote 1 is for certain purposes vis-à-vis vote 10. Vote 10, as you know, is for grants and contributions for recipients, versus vote 1, which is for salaries and operating dollars.
    Page 4 is an attempt to try to deal with questions that were posed by members on the rationale for the $56 million in additional emergency-related costs beyond what we have in the department's existing reference levels. The minister cited a number of examples of events for which we had already issued a reimbursement. Now we are seeking parliamentary authority for reimbursement to cover those costs from a departmental basis, and to ensure that we're within the authorities granted to us by the parliament.
    Page 5 just tries to provide you with a bit of a picture of some of those costs that are being reimbursed. This is an example of the effort to try to build back Kashechewan after the flooding, showing some of the homes. You will note that it is an example of a home without a basement, thus dealing with the reality of the ground there, whereas the ones that were in Kashechewan before the flood all had basements and, therefore, suffered from the flooding.
    Page 6 is our request for additional funds related to the operation return home project. This is a multi-year engagement to ensure that we repair, rebuild, and re-establish the four Manitoba first nations that, unfortunately, were significantly impacted by severe flooding in 2011. We are anticipating a return of all the evacuees to the four first nations communities by 2018-19.
    What you have then, following page 6, are photographs of the progress being made across those four first nations communities. We are providing the necessary infrastructure so that when the evacuees do return, they will have their homes, their roads, their water treatment plants, and sewage systems consistent with the community, and to ensure that it's functioning.
    Page 8 is essentially a request for $10 million to ensure the continued negotiations between Canada, the Province of Ontario, and seven Williams Treaty first nations. This is essentially consistent with the minister's direction not to litigate but to negotiate out of the Alderville litigation that was filed in 1992.
    I believe that page 9 was adequately addressed based on the questions between members and the minister with regard to the purpose of the $3 million for indigenous childhood claims litigation. As the minister stated, it is essentially for research and analysis to ensure that when we do negotiate, we are dealing with appropriate class sizes, and that we rectify appropriately the wrongs that were done in the past.

  (0955)  

     Page 10 is some background on what is essentially the purposes of the Arctic regional environmental studies, and you will note, on page 11, some examples of committee engagements in the past in similar areas related to environmental studies.
    Finally, this is essentially the provision of languages for the 11 self-governing Yukon first nations that Mr. McLeod mentioned, and that is consistent with their self-governing agreements.
    That's it for the presentation. I'm happy to address, along with my colleagues, any questions that you may have.

  (1000)  

     Thank you for the presentation.
    We're going to go into our seven-minute round, starting with Michael McLeod.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I have two lines of questioning. The first one is an ongoing concern that I have about consistent funding for aboriginal people across the board. I think I've raised it a number of times with you.
    I wanted to get some reassurance that the department is investing in aboriginal people in a fair way, whether on reserve, off reserve, or south of the border—whether it's in the communities in the southern provinces or in the communities in the north. Explain to me how your mandate allows you to do that. Indigenous Affairs seems to be focused and mandated only on reserves, and reserves in the south. The reserves in my riding keep telling me that they don't qualify for on-reserve funding, even though they are federal reserves. They're being told that they should get a territorial government, but they're federal reserves. We don't qualify, as I pointed out, for a whole slew of program announcements that were made by this government.
    Can you just explain to me how we do that without actually going to an audit to see how fair the funding is? Are the people in my riding being provided with the same money per capita as other jurisdictions?
    I will start, and then I'll turn to my colleague, Mr. Thoppil, on that.
    There are different entry points for providing funding for indigenous people, and it is quite true that for the Indian bands that are governed by the Indian Act, there is a certain type of funding agreement that is quite formula-driven and is similar, depending on the various sizes of population. There are other entry points, depending on whether there is a land claim agreement or a self-government agreement, or whether indigenous people live off reserve or in urban areas, but there is programming to actually support them.
    With respect to being able to give you a specific picture as to whether or not exactly the same dollars are going to everybody, I would point out that in the case of the north, there are different arrangements with the territories. So it wouldn't be adequate to give an identical breakdown per capita, as you're asking. However, what we could do for you is to provide you with information about all the funding that goes particularly to the Northwest Territories, or north of 60 in general, and which entry door that funding flows.
    Paul, would you like to add anything?
    No, I think the—
    MP McLeod, go ahead.
     Yes, I would very much appreciate that. I've been struggling with the issue and trying to confirm for my constituents that we're being funded in a fair manner and on par with other communities. I'm not getting that. I am not hearing that we are receiving equal funding.
    I've talked to the territorial government. They've reassured me that there isn't a special arrangement, that there is no special mention of aboriginal responsibility in their funding formulas. I would appreciate it if you could tell me, maybe through a graph, how we are funded on par. I'd appreciate it if we could dig down a little deeper—maybe not right now but as we move forward.
    In all fairness, I have to demonstrate that I'm representing my communities, and funding is an important part. If we're not getting housing money when everybody else is getting aboriginal housing money, if we're not getting health and education money, all of these different things that are being provided across the country and we don't qualify in the north.... Nunavut is a good example too. They don't get the same kind of monies that the reserves are getting. I'd like to have further information, if you could provide that to me.
    In this supplementary request, you pointed out at one point that there's $1.8 million for the studies that we're finally going to undertake. I think the request and desire to move forward on that has been there for a while. The overall anticipated budget is $19 million over five years. Is there a plan attached to that? Can I see some information on when the money's going to be rolled out, in what areas? Do we have a budget, a breakout, an action plan? This has generated a lot of interest, and a lot of questions are coming my way. I'd like to be more specific.

  (1005)  

    We have two minutes left.
    Thank you for the question.
    This money is going to be used to help assess the potential environmental impacts of future oil and gas activity in three regions of the Arctic: the Beaufort-Mackenzie Basin; Baffin Bay and Davis Strait; Kivalliq and Kitikmeot and the Arctic islands of Nunavut. The funds will be used to support a Baffin Bay and Davis Strait strategic environmental assessment, and the Beaufort regional strategic environmental assessment.
    These assessments will form a significant part of the science-based review of the decision to designate the Canadian Arctic waters as indefinitely off-limits to new offshore oil and gas licences, as per the United States–Canada joint Arctic leaders' statement of December 20.
    Madam Chair, I see that in the document and recognize it. That's not what I'm asking you. I'm asking you for an action plan, the breakout. You have three areas of study. How much of that is coming forward? Out of the $1.8 million that's being requested now, does that have to be spent before the end of March?
    It does, and—
    Is that going to be a carry-over?
    —if it doesn't, we will seek to re-profile it for the future, with the support of the central agencies, so that it does not get lost.
    That's “yes” to an action plan?
    As for the action plan, we can come back to you with some details with regard to how, and the breakout of the work plan associated with the spending of the $19 million.
    I'd like to see the whole work plan, if I could, but more specifically for the western Arctic.
    Okay, we will do that.
    We will do that for you.
    Thank you.
    Moving on, we have MP Yurdiga.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    The reality is that the carbon tax will drive up the costs in remote northern communities. The fuel that is needed to heat their homes, create electricity, and ship in food will add to the costs of items northerners are already struggling to afford. In some instances, costs are already rising as goods are being shipped out of provinces that already have a carbon tax. Has your department calculated how the increased costs of shipping and electricity will affect program delivery?
    We haven't calculated it right now, but we are working with Environment Canada to make sure that the impact is being assessed, particularly for northerners, as part of the pan-Canadian framework.
    That is being done together with ITK, to ensure that we take traditional knowledge on the impacts of climate change into account in those areas as well.
     There are no allowances in the estimates. Is that correct?
    In our department's estimates, no, but there is activity through the pan-Canadian framework that would be with Environment Canada.
    Referring back to the nutrition north program, it will be a significant cost to families that will have to pay these costs, so in reality, if it's not in the estimates, a lot of these people will actually be getting less of a subsidy to cover the cost. Is that correct?
    I don't think there would be necessarily a direct link for this year, but part of the reform that we're planning to do with nutrition north, as the minister said, is to make sure that we engage and factor the costs of having nutritious and healthy food provided to northerners, including harvesting capacity in the north.

  (1010)  

    Are there no allowances for the extra costs in the nutrition north program?
    There was some improvement with the addition of new communities for this year, and we are in the process of engaging to reform the program.
    What kind of increase are we seeing in the nutrition north program? Is there extra money for the additional communities added to the program?
    Yes, there is, and the program also has an escalator to make sure that it keeps up with the cost of living. Through those two things, the injection of money—the addition of new communities—plus the escalator, we have injected funding for this year, and we're in the process of reforming, as the minister said.
    Moving on to the supplementary estimates (C), there is a request for an allocation of $1.3 million for promoting the safe use, development, conservation, and protection of the north's natural resources and promoting scientific development. But I know that just two months ago, the government banned oil and gas development in the Arctic without consulting anyone. I hope this is not a pattern.
    How has the department engaged northerners in natural resource conservation and development?
    Thank you for the question.
    It's essentially through the supplementary estimates item that we just referenced when I was talking to Mr. McLeod, which is through these community-based workshops under the ARES studies to assess the environmental impact in these kinds of pristine areas.
    I realize that, but I'm talking about whether the money is moving forward. Is that going to promote more consultation?
    That is the purpose.
    For what specific resource development activities will we see funding under the requested allocation?
    Did you mean resource development activity per se?
    Yes, resource development activities.
    It's not the purpose. The purpose is to engage on the impact. The purpose of that particular funding is not to fund resource development activity per se.
    Is it just for consultation only?
    That's correct.
    We see a lot of issues in the north regarding housing, and we're going to see a significant increase in costs with the implementation of the carbon tax. I'm just curious, is the carbon tax part of the equation moving forward when it comes to getting homes built in the north? It's very expensive. It's not only the cost of bringing material in, but also transporting skilled workers. There are many things involved. Are there any provisions allotted for that?
    We are striving to budget for homes to ensure that we address the costs of homes delivered to the north in order to deal with the overcrowding situation.
    But if we look at the cost per home, and say it's $200,000, or whatever it may be, now with the carbon tax, it's going to cost, say, an additional $20,000 or $30,000. So when you're looking at building a couple of thousand homes, if there's no money allotted for that, there will be fewer homes built. We want to reassure northerners that they're going to get the homes that were promised by the government.
     The ones that are being provided for this year have already been costed, and we're going to be reassessing if there are higher costs needed for building housing. For this year, covered by those estimates, we know what the costs are and we are providing that level of funding.
    Thank you.
    Questioning now moves to MP Saganash.
    Thanks again, Madam Chair.
    I want to get back to my last question for the minister, and Paul, you gave a technical response to my question, because the officials who were cross-examined again in that Canadian Human Rights Tribunal advised very clearly that any funds allocated for Jordan's principle that remain unspent at the end of the fiscal year will not be returned to the fund. That was pretty clear, and you responded that it's technically true, unless you re-profile the funds.
    Can you give the committee, first, a clear explanation of how that works and if at the end of that re-profiling the fund will remain for Jordan's principle commitments?

  (1015)  

    Thank you very much, Mr. Saganash, for the question.
    Technically it's an exercise that we do across all programs with defined purposes, and Jordan's principle is an example of that. Over the course of the fiscal year we examine the degree of expenditures associated with the budget allotment, and then, depending upon the degree of usage, we will engage with the central agencies and make a request for re-profiling some months before the end of the fiscal year to ensure that the dedicated pot is used for its intended purposes in future years.
    That requires a justification process, and when they approve that—which usually requires the Minister of Finance's approval—then you see related to that a frozen allotment, as was noted in response to a previous question by a member of the committee, and then it gets reallocated. What tends to happen is that when the public accounts get published, you will sometimes notice huge amounts of lapses, which are due to the frozen allotments that have forced those lapses. But what the public accounts lapses don't indicate is the re-profiles that have transpired to keep that money going.
    When you look at the gross lapse in the public accounts, you have to understand that there are two aspects to it. There is the planned lapse, and then there is the actual net lapse for which spending did not go. For example, last year the gross lapse for the department was $900 million, but then when you start taking into account all those re-profiled amounts, the net amount was actually $900,000.
    That's just a technical response to your question about ensuring that dedicated pots of money are always managed to ensure that they are available in future years for their intended purposes.
    Okay, that's pretty clear.

[Translation]

    I would like to go back to the other question that I wanted to ask the minister and will now ask Ms. Laurendeau.
    I often hear the minister say she engages with the first nations, Inuit and Métis. The two or three people who were cross-examined in the case that was referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal all seemed to say that the government does not have a definition of “engagement”. Is that the case?
    That word is used in various places, but not necessarily in a policy. In French, the term mobilisation is used most often. It is a way of taking the pulse of a community in order to know exactly what its needs are. It is more than merely a consultation. A consultation can often be done in writing. The term “engagement” is a bit broader and includes conversation and discussion, and lets us know exactly what the specific needs of a community, group or independent government are.
    The definition of “engagement” is “meaningful conversation” on specific needs in a particular area.
    That is what we did in the preliminary inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. We are using this approach more and more. You have probably heard that we are currently conducting various engagement exercises, in both northern and southern Canada. It is a more inclusive and complete approach that requires the presence of two partners and back and forth discussion between them.

  (1020)  

    You surely noted as well the Prime Minister's statement that there will be an exercise to set the priorities with the various groups. That is a type of engagement. The goal is to find out what the needs are so as to determine the order of priorities and the action that needs to be taken.
    If I understood what the Prime Minister said, he committed to a new relationship with indigenous peoples based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
    Precisely.
    He said this is a priority. The Declaration includes the concept of free, informed, and prior consent.
    In your opinion, or based on what was said earlier, is your engagement similar to the concept found in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

[English]

     A very short answer of 30 seconds.

[Translation]

    If I understand your question correctly, you are asking if our engagement is consistent with the requirements of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Yes, we do consider our commitment to be consistent with the requirements of the Declaration.

[English]

    Okay.
    That's it.
    Thank you.
    We're now moving the questioning to MP—
    Did I have any time left?
    You have 12 seconds.

[Translation]

    Let us look at this engagement from a policy point of view. What policy direction is given to follow through on this type of engagement? Does the minister tell the department what to do, or does the department tell the the minister what to do and how to do it?
    I think it would be better to ask the minister that question.

[English]

    Okay, we're moving on to MP Rusnak.
    I'm probably going to sound like a broken record over the next couple of months, as my broken rib, thanks to my Conservative colleagues, heals up. I've never had one before. If I grimace, it's because of my rib situation.
    Having said that, I'm no doctor and I'm no financial expert. However, I was looking at page 2, the operating expenses versus the total budgetary expenses for 2016-17, and it's close to 10% for the operating expenditures of the department.
     In relation to other departments, is that about equal? I know departments differ, but for a comparable department to the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, would that be consistent in terms of operating expenditures and, I would imagine, for offices, employees, and other such things? Is that consistent among like departments in government?
    Thank you very much for the question.
    With vote 1, operating expenditures, it's not in fact all for the department's purposes; it's also for monies for contaminated sites and residential schools.
    With regard to the actual portion of the operating expenditures of the billion dollars allocated, $500 million is for the department's salaries and its own expenditures. That $500 million, as a percentage of the total budgetary expenditures, comes to around 7%. As the minister noted, if you use a benchmark of other departments and organizations of a comparable size, where the figure is around 15%, we believe that we measure very favourably in that regard.
    I've been hearing a lot of frustration from communities about the speed at which the department makes decisions. Is that a resourcing issue from not having enough staff to make decisions for communities in a timely manner, or is it something else within the department? Timing is the concern with the communities. They makes applications, or they go through processes....
     Another aspect of this is that the processes are cumbersome, and more cumbersome than with other federal agencies, for example FedNor. I know that a lot of first nations in my riding deal often with FedNor. They much prefer to deal with FedNor than with the bureaucracy at INAC.

  (1025)  

     I have a couple of things to say on that. I think the department is more than adequately resourced. We are able to face what is required to be done.
    One of the things that traditionally or sometimes created a bit of pressure in our allocating of resources was when within a year some of the money was provided to the department per se, particularly on big ticket items such as vote 10. Last year, with the budget of 2016, there was a tremendous effort made by the central agencies to give us access to that money much earlier in the year, which allowed us in turn to fan it out more quickly to first nations and to amend the contribution agreements more quickly to be able to give them the security of the funding they would be getting, particularly on infrastructure. I'm happy to say that, as of today, we're close to having 98% of all the funding already committed to the communities, and they know exactly what they're going to be getting.
    A lot of efforts have been made in that direction. Is it perfect? The discussion on a new fiscal relationship may open up doors to make it even more efficient down the road, but I am proud to say that we've made improvements in that respect. In previous years, sometimes we would get the bulk of the money only in the supplementary (C)s, which would have been today. If you look at the supplementary (C)s of this year compared to the year before, you see that it's really for the things that would have emerged during the year, as opposed to being a big chunk of the money that we were promised in the previous budget.
    So the central agencies—Finance and Treasury Board—I think should be commended for that.
    I'm told by Madam Chair that I have two minutes left. I've agreed to share them with my colleague from la belle province.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Mr. Rusnak.
    I will continue in the same vein as my colleague and go back to the perspective at 50,000 feet above the Supplementary Estimates, as presented on page 2 and in other documents.
    Today is February 23 and the end of the fiscal year is approaching. Of the total estimates of $9.5 billion presented, can you give me an update on expenditures to date or to the end of January? How do the expenditures thus far relate to the budget?
    We are very far along.
    There is quite a rigorous process in the department. Every month, we review with the management team where we are at in terms of expenditures. This is an important exercise, especially considering that a large amount is allocated to infrastructure under vote 10. We regularly track progress on projects. If some projects are delayed or postponed to next year, we make sure that those funds go to something that we may not have been able to start this year but that is ready to begin.
    I can tell you with a great deal of confidence that, by year end, we will have spent all the funds we were supposed to allocate.

[English]

    You have 10 seconds.

[Translation]

    Is there a potential surplus?
    The only potential areas of surplus are those we have already discussed, that is, votes that have to reprofiled to next year, including those for residential schools and regulations.
    As to the actual expenditures that were allocated for this year, my primary responsibility is to make sure we do not exceed the amounts allocated. I am confident that we will do that.

[English]

    Thank you.

[Translation]

    The plane will land as scheduled without incident.
    Thank you for your question.

[English]

    We're moving now to five-minute rounds. We'll start with MP Cathy McLeod.
    Mr. Viersen very kindly agreed to give me one minute of his time.
    I have a quick follow-up. Certainly, you've talked about the public accounts, and I think it's really unfortunate that it gets stated the way it is, because it often leads to those headlines that a billion dollars was not spent for communities.... Truly, I think a simple change to that would be to say, “This was the true amount unspent, and this is the amount that has been re-profiled.” It would not be a big change. To be quite frank, I'm not sure why we haven't done that, because the way the amounts are stated now really does create misperceptions out there about what we're doing.
    To Treasury Board, you certainly would have my support to be a little clearer in that particular reporting structure.
    Having said that, we've talked about the $100 million that has been administratively frozen. You gave some, I think, reasonable explanations, but what we don't have.... I am asking if you could table specifically for that $100 million what has been frozen and why it has been frozen. I don't expect that here today, but I think we need to be able to see what was not spent, why it was not spent, and its re-profiling for next year, versus what truly has lapsed. That's my one request to you.

  (1030)  

     Thank you very much.
    We have that table, and we would be very pleased to table it with the committee for the benefit of all members.
    Thank you.
    The Chair: MP Viersen.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    To our guests today, thank you, first of all, for being here. This is much appreciated. I'm still learning about the supplementary (C)s and things like that, learning where it all goes. It's always interesting.
    Perhaps you could lay this out for me a little bit. At the beginning of the year, we put out a budget. Is there an easier way to watch it flow out other than this? It seems like we have the budget here and the expenditures there. Nothing seems to line up.
     Is there a place I can go where it lines up a little bit easier and we can see the money flowing out?
    Thank you for the question.
    I believe the minister in previous appearances, and in her opening remarks, talked about how, from her vantage point of being a parliamentarian for so many years, the current estimates process does not work in providing the clarity that you've noted. That's why, in the President of the Treasury Board's mandate letter, he is charged with reforming the estimates.
    My understanding is that the President of the Treasury Board and his officials are engaged with the public accounts committee on a reform process and trying to understand what reporting structure would, as a previous member has cited, would work best for purposes of alignment. Some of the options that are being discussed, as I understand it, between the public accounts committee and the Treasury Board are things like trying to ensure that when the budget is tabled, the main estimates, when eventually tabled, include substantially more of those budget announcements so that we can try to minimize for parliamentarians the disconnect between the main estimates and the budget.
    That's just one option that is being discussed. They're talking about trying to deal with the public accounts reporting so that, as another member mentioned, these notions of gross lapses don't give an unfair picture of the degree of funding. But it is a bit of a conundrum. There have been some experiments done in other jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Australia, which are also being looked at in terms of alignment. However, I will defer to the public accounts committee on works best for Parliament going forward.
    Thank you.
    You have 45 seconds left.
    All right.
    I guess I'll just express a little bit of displeasure at the fact that there doesn't seem to have been any work done on accounting for how the carbon tax will affect INAC. The largest community in my riding is the town of Whitecourt, and the carbon tax, with just very easy targets, will cost them next year $120,000 more in fuel and natural gas costs. The town said that was the piece they could easily identify. They know that last year they used this much diesel fuel, this much natural gas, so the price will go up by this amount. They can see exactly what it will be.
    They also said there are a lot of hidden costs with the carbon taxes. For anything that is shipped in, they don't know what the costs will be. They know that there will be an increased cost, but they don't know what it will be.
    Thank you.
    Thank you.
    We'll move now to MP Massé.

[Translation]

    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    I would like to go back to the issue of funding as committed to under the Jordan principle. I raise this issue because a number of witnesses have expressed concern about the amounts allocated as compared to actual expenditures.
    In the documents to which our colleague Mr. Saganash referred, it says that $11.4 million of the allocated budget has been spent, and that some 1,500 claims have been processed.
    You are requesting an additional $1 million in the Supplementary Estimates. Can you tell me how this additional million dollars will be used, bearing in mind the budget and the expenditures that have been made?

  (1035)  

    There are two things that should not be confused. It is true that $88 million were set aside to be sure there was enough money on hand. We must remember that, when the definition of the Jordan principle was broadened in July, it was hard to know where we were starting from.
    Together with Health Canada—since the costs are mostly covered by Health Canada—, we decided to be cautious so we would not run out of money during the year. So we set aside $88 million. To date, we have spent approximately $11.9 million, but we are also expecting additional invoices at a later date. So that amount will probably increase.
    As to the million dollars, it is a transfer for the part related to the Indigenous and Northern Affairs mandate. That is so the claimant does not have to wonder whether to apply to Indigenous and Northern Affairs or Health Canada. The $88 million is pooled funding. Then it depends on the expenditures that are required. We can be responsible for a program that provides housing assistance or supports other activities within our mandate.
    In our case, we needed $1 million of that $11.9 million for our own expenditures. Most of the expenditures pertain to health. Otherwise they can include modifying a house or widening a door so a wheelchair can get through, things like that. Our part in the Supplementary Estimates (C) it is that one million.
    You referred to it but I would like to hear more about the coordination mechanism used to make sure that the money is properly utilized. What is the coordination mechanism between your department and Health Canada to make sure these funds are well distributed and are used to achieve the stated objectives?
    In practical terms, people can go into any regional office of Indigenous and Northern Affairs or Health Canada. There is also a telephone information line.
    When that information is received and a case is identified, it is confirmed at the outset that the money will be given and the funding provided. We then make arrangements behind the scenes.
    The idea behind the Jordan principle was to make this as simple as possible. In the past, people had to knock on several doors, while we were left wondering who should intervene.
    We have stopped all that. People go in one door and then...

[English]

we sort it out among ourselves.

[Translation]

    The individual, the user, receives the service regardless of where they request it and regardless of whether it is a health service or a service from Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Then we reconcile our accounts. It is like a...

[English]

client-focused service as opposed to being a jurisdictional-focused service.

[Translation]

    That is probably the harshest criticism that was made about the way it used to be administered.
    Do I have any time left?

[English]

    You have 30 seconds.

[Translation]

    In recent months, have you observed whether this mechanism, which seems to be simpler, has made it possible to increase the number of children receiving this service, which seems to be more streamlined and effective?
    If I recall correctly, before July, there were just 10 or 11 cases. Now, there are over 3,000 children.
    Thank you.

[English]

    Thank you very much.
    That concludes our round of questions. Thank you for coming forward and being prepared with those answers.
    I believe there are a couple of information pieces that are going to come through to members through the clerk.
     Is that how it normally works?
    Okay, the clerk will follow up with you.

  (1040)  

    I requested—
    You requested a piece of information. Thank you for that.
    Now we're going to move to the votes.
    Thank you, Madam Chair.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), the committee will now dispose of the supplementary estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.
     Do I have unanimous consent to deal with all the votes in one motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Chair: We'll go to the vote.
DEPARTMENT OF INDIAN AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT
ç Vote 1c—Operating expenditures..........$4,030,475
ç Vote 10c—Grants and contributions..........$91,583,861
    (Votes 1c and 10c agreed to on division)
    The Chair: Thank you.
    Shall I report these votes to the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    On division. No, I'm just teasing.
    I shall report this to the House.
    Thank you, everybody.
    I wanted to remind you about the calendar. February 28 is the preliminary witness list deadline for third party management. March 7 is a planning meeting. On March 9, the department will be back to discuss the default prevention and management policy.
    Okay? Do you have all of that?
    Don.
     It's just a point of order, Madam Chair.
    My friends across the aisle were referring to some “carbon tax”. I don't believe that—
    An hon. member: I don't know what that is.
    Mr. Don Rusnak: Yes. I don't know what that is. I think it's a price on carbon—
    I think you'll have to take that outside....
    —pollution, I believe.
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    A motion to adjourn.
    An hon. member: I so move.
    The Chair: Yes, I think that's unanimous.
    The meeting is adjourned.
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